Friday, 15 December 2017

What is a Voice Adder?

Another year has flashed by and many voices and voiceover projects have come through our doors here at Big Fish Media HQ. We have laughed, cried and cheered throughout many sessions. We take a look back at some of 2017’s most interesting and illuminating voiceover moments. 

1.    A perfect 30 seconds! – This accolade belongs to a number of fine wonderful conversational voiceovers who nail it every time. To be able to reach the pinnacle in voiceover is to be able to speed up or slow down and make it sound effortless and within time and did I mention conversational?! All our voiceover artists hit their time marks and do so easily and consistently.

2.    “Just taking the fish for a walk” – our jolly voiceover companion at all times is our dear friend Fishy Wishy who not only looks down at us while we work and provides us with a daily tongue twister but likes to pop out and about every so often for some fine photos – or should that be fin photos?

3.    “Can you just jiggle that cable?” – A phrase our studio engineers have become well versed in. Our wonderful sound engineers are skilled in the wonderful art of audio with impeccable hearing to sound out any mouth sounds, breaths and even an odd squeak. However should anything go down with the desk, the ISDN, the Ipdtl or skype they are pretty handy in the electronic department and nothing a good jiggle can’t sort out. The aquarium is indebted to them.

4.    Voice Adders? – When talking to one of our video production clients we were interrupted by someone who asked if we provided voice adders. Well our voices can shed their characters like a snake sheds their skin but this was perhaps a little too far. However as our wonderful voiceover talents who have years of training including acting and voice training them maybe we should be Big Adder Media.

5.    Going wild? – For a lot of our video productions we always ask wild or to picture. Syncing or voicing to picture to an already final video or animation means a lot more work as everything needs to be checked and re-checked and then checked again to make sure it fits. Voicing wild means that the voice can speak at whatever pace the client wants and then the video is cut to fit them. With our wonderful wild voiceovers you know that it will fit.

This year the Big Fish Media aquarium of voices provided clients with voices. Many thanks to all our voiceovers and clients – see you all in the New Year!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Why should I use a Voiceover?

We pride ourselves on offering voiceovers for a range of voice over genres. There are so many variations that we thought we would go through a list of each service we offer.  As one of the fifth senses, audio is omnipresent and we incorporate it into our lives without giving it much thought. However the power of the voice is a vital tool to be harnessed with great effect.

Advertising/Commercial voice over
Advertising spots are those mini movies you get during the break in your favourite soap on TV or radio programme. They can be anything from informative, fun, serious, silly, amusing, medical but always very creative.

Advertising trends have changed over the years. In their heyday adverts were big, brash, huge production affairs. The voice over would also be big and announcer-y with visuals to match. My personal favourite was the Milk Tray advert series.

The drama, action and suspense was enough to rival most film productions all condensed into a 3 minute spot that ended with a voiceover.  

Fast forward to today and in the UK at least we see more engaging, down to earth, friendly advertising with voiceovers to match. The voiceover you hear is your friend and/or company representative pointing out the obvious because during that slot you might be making tea/lunch/dinner, sorting out the children, running about tidying or simply zoning out.

Without the voice to hook you back in, then the advert can fall on deaf ears resulting in a missed selling moment. The audio and voice over is the icing on a pretty fine creative commercial cake! Tasty sounds = tasty adverts.

Our Chilean Sea Bass team member, Lorraine headed to a sunny shore for a bit of R&R recently and watched some TV adverts; an advert for a local car dealership came up. Colourful pictures but no sound at all, no music and no voiceovers.

The result – she thought something was wrong with the TV, pushing down on the volume button and lost in how to make the sound work, completely losing sight of the TV advert. Moral of the story = an opportunity to hear or OTH totally lost.

Lorraine won’t have been the only person thinking that while watching. As a brand, product or service can you take that chance of losing a client?

TV and Radio adverts and commercial are not corporate videos (explanation in forthcoming blog post) so usage is very clear as long as you know and have the Television Viewer Ratings (TVR). This is a standard buying currency for TV advertising in the UK. Every company requesting an advert will know the TVR – they have to know as they will have to be booked with the broadcaster so ensure you get that vital bit of information.

The art and skill of creating and producing ad advert goes back decades and some very fine film directors have cut their teeth on advert tape. Think Ridley Scott. Think mini movie moments. Think voiceovers

Thursday, 3 August 2017

How much does a short Voiceover cost?

We are asked daily to quote for voiceover recordings.

Often this is qualified by "it's only short" - the implied meaning being that it won't take us long to do.

And therefore it will be cheap. Won't it?

Often we are happy to do pick ups (or amends) to a previous job for free. But if it's "only a page" its still a new job and takes us just as long to organise a short voiceover recording as it does a longer job. It often actually takes longer as we then need to negotiate a price.

We were contacted once by an exasperated client who had just spent an hour with a so-called voice artist who had failed to do what was required on a short voiceover recording.

It turned out the voice was only being paid £20 per hour. Well you get what you pay for!

And of course this person had also wasted the cost of the studio time too.

Voiceover artists are booked by the hour. With a one hour minimum charge. Just like your electrician or plumber, there is a minimum charge/call out fee.

So the next time you book a voiceover artist and it "only takes 10 minutes" it is because they are very good at what they do and have spent time preparing. Not because you have been over-charged.


Wednesday, 26 July 2017

How much does a Voiceover cost?

We are asked on a daily basis how much we would charge to record a voiceover.

Often that is the only information we are given at the initial enquiry.

Well there is so much more information that we need to be able to quote.

Firstly which voice artist would you like?

We'll need the actual script (not just a word count.)

Will this be a wild recording or do we need to fit the voiceover to your video ("sync" or "voice to picture")?

Recording to picture takes much longer and therefore costs more.

Do we just need to send the voiceover artist to Soho (or another third party studio) - and you pay for the studio? Or would you like us to record here?

And most importantly:

Where will the voiceover be used?

Will it be a corporate voiceover (used internally for training or an intranet)? Initially we are often told its a corporate voiceover but it later transpires it will also be used on the web.

Will it be used on the internet? If so on which websites? Will it be on any Social Media sites?

Will it be used on TV? If so which TV stations, for how long and what are the TVRs of the voiceover (usage/repeat fees)?

So you see its a bit more complicated than "How much?"

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

What is the availability of a Voiceover Artist?

We are often asked by clients to send over voice demos of our voiceovers who are available for a job tomorrow.

We wish this was possible but with over 2,000 voices on our books it is just impossible to keep track of everyone's movements.

We would need a full time person to do this and even then I am not sure how useful it would be.

We do ask our voices to email us every week with their availability; most don't.

Even if we did have this information on a Monday, by Thursday we would need to check again anyway as jobs come and go quickly. And so the availability of the voice artists changes daily. If not by the hour.

Most of our voices will let us know if they are going on holiday or away on a job for a couple of weeks or more but that's about as useful as it is.

Once we have a shortlist, we will of course contact suitable voices, but it can take a day or two to gather all the information you need. So do bear this in mind when commissioning voiceovers

Monday, 19 June 2017

How do I keep cool in my Voiceover booth?

Another day of the Great UK Heat wave 2017. The Big Fish Team has been working away making sure we deliver professional voiceovers to our many clients. However in this heat that we are experiencing we have some advice for them and everyone recording in such temperatures.

1.      Keep hydrated
Our voiceover talent keep hydrated by drinking over 2 litres of water on a normal day. Now in this heat wave when we are hitting over 31 degrees Celsius drink much more water. Heat stroke and headaches may occur through lack of water. The booth can get hot and sticky so take regular breaks and ventilate the booth well.

2.      Keep cool
Use ice packs on the back of the neck and on the wrists to keep you cool. Or take a tepid to cool shower. Wear comfortable clothes to record that will keep you cool in the booth. Layering will be the answer for changes in temperature during reads.

3.      Keep your cool
Yes, we know it’s hot, we know its sticky, we know its sweaty but try and keep calm and cool as a cucumber while in the booth. Take a deep breath, get another ice pack and we’ll take it from the top.

4.      Keep the equipment cool
Yes the desk, the kit, the mic and computer fans can over heat even more quickly in this heat. Keep them cool by using a fan, closing curtains so the sun doesn’t heat up the booth or studio room.

5.      Protect yourself outside
Even when out and about, protect yourself. Sun cream, covering up with a top and hat and sunglasses will protect you from the sun. And if driving, cover the steering wheel or seat so you avoid burning your hands.

And when the day is over, treat yourself to some ice lollies, ice creams or a nice Long Island Tea with plenty of ice and listen to our voiceovers to keep you cool, calm and collected. 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

How should I behave on a Business phone call?

We love to talk here at Big Fish Media (you might have noticed) and what we love more than recording voiceovers is talking to our clients. We happily pick up the phone and call them mostly just to hear their voice and to say hello.

However in the past few months we have noticed a trend. Many places we call seem to have lost the art of telephone conversation. Now us fish were schooled (fish joke) and drilled by parents, school and first jobs into how to answer the telephone, conduct a conversation and then how to end the call. I still remember having a class about this at school. We had to role play and ensure we knew how to talk to the other person.

These days we feel that the art of a business telephone conversation seems to be disappearing. We have often been greeted by a gruff “What?” “Hello?,” “Who are you?” We are proud to be Big Fish Media so why are some clients reticent to say who they are!?

Talking is one thing but listening is just as important. It is like a tennis match where you all know and understand that the ball is volleyed from one side of the court to the other. As we are all expert callers here, we are sad that many people flounder when we talk to them.

Key dos and don’ts
·        Do greet your client warmly and professionally naming your company, giving your name and offer to help
·        Do smile – that can make a huge difference to the mood and image of the company – this is the first port of call!
·        Do speak clearly and enunciate words
·        Do ask for the caller’s name and details and information – remember to repeat it back and get them to confirm the details
·        Don’t eat/chew/drink while on the call (crisps are a favourite snack we hear)
·        Don’t heavy breathe into the phone
·        Don’t carry on a conversation with a colleague while answering a call (Yes we heard all about the boss’s holiday – thanks for sharing!)
·        Don’t answer the phone while driving, busy, in a meeting or otherwise engaged.

Here is our business call example:
  1. Answer warmly – “Good Morning/afternoon this is Amy at Big Fish Media – how can I help?
  2. Listen to client attentively and Ask for clarification or give information clearly
  3. Ensure the client has understood everything and repeat back any details as needed
  4. Finish the call with a departing greeting ““Thanks very much, we will be in touch as agreed, many thanks, bye”

The purpose of the opening and closing parts to the business call are important so the other person knows that the call has come to an end. Leaving someone hanging is impolite. 

Here at Big Fish Media we have many voiceovers that are reassuring and can give your company that professional greeting. 

If you are in need of a clear and confident professional voiceover on hold phone greeting then – just drop us a line. We love to talk! 

Friday, 28 April 2017

How do I self-record a Voiceover on an iPad or iPhone?

So, you have a voiceover audition coming up. Lets imagine, you need to record a voice sample for a potential job quickly and all you have is your iPhone and / or iPad.

You don’t have the time / money to book a studio just for an audition, for a job which you may or may not get.

You could record yourself on the phone, using the built-in mic, but the end result will not do your voice justice.

You could go and buy a portable digital recorder such as the Zoom or Edirol. These are great, but you then have to transfer the audio to a computer before sending.

A great alternative is a high quality microphone attachment for your iphone or iPad, such as the RODE i-XY with lightning connection (there is also a 30 pin version for older iPhones)

Using the Rode i-XY and the Rode Rec app you can record and edit audio, then you have a choice of ways to transfer that audio straight from the phone via File Sharing. Email, FTP, Dropbox or Soundcloud. This is an advantage over the separate flash recorder with USB card.

When you are living in a Battersea bedsit that costs £1600 a month, you are probably doing all your business on a smartphone and or tablet. With the Rode mic and App you can record, edit and send, all on the phone and very quickly.

If you are in the world of voiceover, speed can be important. If you were out and about and your agent or a client requested a voice sample to be done within the hour, with this you could find a quiet enough space and make a recording in next to no time.

I own the Rode i-XY and the Rode Rec app and I have found them to be excellent. The mic attachment is not cheap at around £150, but it is well worth the money and has paid for itself in just one voiceover job.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Who is responsible to make sure a Sync Voiceover fits?

We often get localisation voiceover recording jobs. That is, those scripts that have been originally written in English and have accompanied a video which it fits perfectly time wise.

Now, when it comes to recording say, the German voiceover for that same video, we often find that the German translation is too long for the video, due to ‘text expansion’ as its know in the translation world. 

Basically, in some languages, more words are needed to say the same thing as in another language. In the case of German translated from English it can be up to 35 per cent longer.

What usually happens is that the client only realises this when it comes to recording and we end up wasting expensive in-session time re-writing the script on the fly in an attempt to make it fit. 

This is less than ideal as the proper time and consideration can’t be given to script changes during a session.

It would be better if these things were sorted out before the session. But whose job is that?

A client will usually use a translation company, who do a literal translation. We called a company who told us they cannot translate to picture, i.e. they cannot make sure the translated script fits the video as this would be "copywriting".

This is understandable as it would require changing the script from the written English. This isn’t something you would do without consulting the client. 

As many translators are freelancers working from home doing a literal translation of a document they have been sent, it’s unlikely they will even have the details of the client. 

So what is the answer to this common voiceover problem? 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

What do the buttons on a Mixing Desk do?

Anyone who has ever had any association with the world of Audio or Voiceovers will have at some point come across something similar to one of these:

No that's not the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, but our new Mixing Desk and a staple in Recording Studios around the world. 

We have just upgraded our studio desk (to the above) to allow us to more effectively and efficiently record our voiceovers.

I thought now would be a good time to speak about approaching new mixing desks for the first time and facing any anxiety that they may conjure up.

The most common phrase I hear when people are first confronted with a mixing desk is usually: 

"How do you remember what all of those Dials, Buttons, and Faders do!?"  

In actual fact there are only a few features on all desks that you need to remember, regardless of how big or small they are. Once you understand these you will be able to apply them to most of the desks you come across. 

Our desk, the Soundcraft Signature 22 has 22 Channels, as its name implies. This means that the desk has just 18 Channel Strips (given that four of the 22 are Stereo Channels). 

While you may be thinking that I am making this sound even more daunting, the number of Channel Strips is in fact completely uncorrelated to the complexity of understanding the Desk. 

In the above picture highlighted in yellow is a single Channel Strip and as you'll notice, all of the Channel Strips around it are identical (the different coloured Knobs & Faders are there simply for our own ease of use and all serve the same purpose). 

This is why understanding mixing desks is a great deal less daunting than it first appears; Once you understand one... You understand the rest! 

Starting from the bottom of the Channel Strip you have the Fader. These control level of the source (Playback or Recording depending on your routing). At the top of the Fader you will notice three buttons; these determine where the output of the Fader goes. For example we have ours setup to route to Headphones, Speakers & our DAW to record. The Mute button, Mutes the output of the Fader (which we use frequently in a more complex Minus Mix scenario that I will refrain from delving into) and above that we have a pan knob. 

The next block of Knobs are known as Aux Sends, and on our desk we have 5 per channel. These allow us to send audio from one channel to another. This is particularly useful in our setup as our sessions often involve a number of different sources of voice talent and Clients. 

For example, we have an Aux dedicated to our Booth, ISDN, ipDTL, Skype and the Telephone so that we are able to send the VO and Clients to and from each other at varying levels depending on their location, so that they can communicate as if they were in the same room. 

Above the Aux's are an EQ section which allow us to balance frequencies when necessary, and lastly there is a Gain trim, which means we are able to make fine adjustment to the recording level of our Voiceovers. 

And that's it... That's how we remember what all those Dials, Buttons and Faders do to give you the perfect voiceovers every time!